Maumbury Rings, Dorchester, Dorset

Roman Amphitheatre, Dorchester
Dated 17 Janaury 1912, postmarked 18 Janaury 1913

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Stone photos & panorama

Maumbury Rings is a Neolithic henge in the south of Dorchester town in Dorset, England (grid reference SY690899). It is a large circular earthwork, 85 metres in diameter, with a single bank and an entrance to the north east. It was modified during the Roman period when it was adapted for use as an amphitheatre, and the site was remodelled again during the English Civil War when it was used as an artillery fort guarding the southern approach to Dorchester. The monument is now a public open space, and used for open-air concerts, festivals and re-enactments.

The Neolithic Henge’s original function, like so many other structures from the same time, remains enigmatic though scholars have proposed it could have been a place of ritual or astronomical observation, as excavations in the early 20th century revealed the shafts used in its foundation contained fragments of tools made from deer bone, flint, and even fragments of human skull! The reason Maumbury Rings still stands while so many henges have disappeared over time is that it has been adapted to suit various purposes since its creation. The Roman Town of Durnovaria (Dorchester) modified the rings in roughly 100 AD to make it a place of entertainment – an amphitheatre. Throughout this period the rings would be host to gladiatorial fights and executions. There’s no record of the rings use in Saxon times though it likely stayed as a place of meeting and by the middle ages it was again host to violent spectator sports, this time jousting tournaments. In 1642 the earthwork was again remodelled and saw yet another function, this time one of war. The Parliamentarians turned it into an artillery fort guarding the southern flank along Weymouth Road where the Royalists were thought to be advancing. After the civil war Maumbury rings gained a macabre status as its role as a place of public execution was revived, most notably by the infamous Judge Jeffreys who condemned eighty rebels to death in Maumbury Rings.
Dorchester Dorset

The monument includes a henge, a Romano-British amphitheatre and Civil War fieldworks situated in the centre of Dorchester. The henge, amphitheatre and fieldworks are superimposed on one another with visible remains of all three elements. They survive as a roughly circular enclosure bank with an internal diameter of up to 64m, the bank measuring approximately 4m wide, broken and terraced in places with a maximum height of 4m externally and 5.6m internally. There is an entirely buried internal henge ditch, and a bulge in the earthworks to the south west marks the site of the gun emplacement. From the centre of the enclosure the ground slopes gradually upwards. The single entrance is to the north east. The gun emplacement has levelled part of the bank and is composed of a steep ramp of material with a level platform thus created on the summit. . . . During the Romano-British period the henge earthworks were modified by the internal excavation of an oval, level arena floor and the cutting of seating into the scarp and bank which was subsequently revetted with either chalk or timber. Chambers were cut into the bank to the south west and one on each side of the centre. Objects recovered on the arena floor and elsewhere suggested a 4th century date for the final usage of the amphitheatre although there was a 2nd century inhumation. The Civil War fieldworks were begun in 1642 and are visible as terraces and a gun emplacement platform to the south west. . . .Subsequently the interior of the enclosure was under cultivation.
Historic England

Corfe Castle, Dorset

Corfe Castle
Postmarked 1907
Publisher: The Pictorial Stationery Co. Ltd, London

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The keep was built in the early 12th century for King Henry I, William the Conqueror’s son. It was designed to be impressive – and it certainly was. Standing 21m tall and on the top of a 55m high hill, this gleaming tower of Purbeck limestone could be seen from miles around. In the 17th century, as the Civil War raged around it, the castle stood firm. The Bankes family supported King Charles I (Cavaliers) against Oliver Cromwell (Roundheads). Lady Bankes defended it bravely during not just one, but two sieges, until finally she was betrayed by one of her own soldiers. After six centuries of keeping enemies at bay, an Act of Parliament was passed at Wareham to destroy the castle. Captain Hughes of Lulworth was given the job of demolishing it. His sappers dug deep holes packed with gunpowder to bring the towers and ramparts crashing down, resulting in the yawning gaps and crazy angles we see today.
National Trust

It may have been a defensive site even in Roman times and Corfe Castle certainly has had a colourful history. The first castle buildings would have been built of wood. In 979 King Edward was reputedly murdered by his step-mother so that her own son Ethelred the Unready could become King of England. In the latter half of the 11th Century the Castle was rebuilt in stone by William the Conqueror and for the next six hundred years was a royal fortress used by the monarchs of England and latterly their constables.
Corfe Castle

Martyr’s Gate, Corfe Castle. (Edward murdered here A.D. 979)
Publisher: Radermacher, Aldous & Co/The R.A (Postcards) Ltd, London

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The story is this : Edward, after hunting in the neighbour hood of Wareham, thought he would turn in here and visit his stepmother and his brother Ethelred ; so, riding to her door, he was kissed by Eifrida, and given some wine ; but while drinking it, he was, by Elfrida’s order, stabbed in the back by one of her people. Edward, feeling the wound, started away, and soon after fell out of the saddle in a swoon when, his foot catching in the stirrup, he was dragged face downward for a long distance, and was at last picked up dead and greatly disfigured.
“The castles of England, their story and structure, Vol. I”, James D. Mackenzie, 1897, p. 241

Corfe Castle, Dorset
Publisher: Landor’s Studios

Notwithstanding the high likelihood of an earlier settlement, the first known high-status residence on the site was a Saxon hall. Archaeological evidence has placed this within the west bailey of the later castle and it had been established no later than the tenth century AD. With nearby Wareham, a Saxon burh (fortified town), providing the defensive facility against the Danes, the prime purpose of Corfe was to serve as a hunting lodge as by this time the Isle of Purbeck had been designated a Royal forest.  .  .  . Corfe Castle itself was founded by William I who procured the land from the nunnery at Shaftsbury. When initially raised it consisted of east and west wards. The former occupied the summit of the chalk hill ,which doubled as a natural motte, and was surrounded by a stone wall constructed from Purbeck limestone. The western ward was the bailey and was enclosed by a timber stockade hosting what is now known as the Old Hall – a two storey building consisting of a large chamber on the first floor and storage below. The distinctive herring-bone masonry of this structure suggests Saxon labour was utilised. Henry I started work on the Great Keep no later than 1105. This structure stood 22 metres tall whilst its position on the summit of the hill elevated it a further 55 metres above sea level. At the time of its construction it was one of the largest buildings in England and incorporated a Great Hall, King’s Chambers and a Chapel.
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At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642, Corfe Castle was owned by Sir John Bankes, Lord Chief Justice. The castle was garrisoned for the King but most of Dorset supported Parliament and by early 1643 Corfe was an isolated outpost under the control of Lady Mary Banks. It was besieged on 23 June 1643 by a 600 strong Parliamentary army drawn from the Poole garrison and under the command of Sir Walter Erle. A determined resistance meant that after six weeks no progress had been made and, faced with the approach of a Royalist relief force, Erle withdrew on 4 August 1643. By late 1645 Royalist fortunes were in decline after destruction of the King’s armies at Marston Moor (1644) and Naseby (1645). With Parliament now having a free hand, Corfe Castle was under siege again by October 1645. Lady Banks put up a determined resistance but one of her officers, Colonel Pitman, was less enthusiastic. In February 1646 he made a deal with the Parliamentarians and helped their troops to penetrate the defences. The Royalist garrison was overwhelmed. Corfe Castle had proven a formidable challenge for the Parliamentarian forces and accordingly was one of the first fortifications to be ordered to be destroyed to prevent any further military use. Parliament passed the decree in March 1646 and Captain Hughs was tasked with the work. He brought a team of sappers to undermine the walls and towers leaving the structure in ruins. When the Bankes family were allowed to recover the site, they found a structure beyond economical repair and the family built a new manor at Kingston Lacey to serve as their home. Corfe Castle was gifted to the National Trust in 1982.
Castles Forts Battles

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The Gardens, Bournemouth, England

The Gardens, Bournemouth
Publishers: Sydenham & Co, Bournemouth

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The Lower Gardens in Bournemouth are only a five minute walk from the main shopping centre, the beach and the pier. They are Grade II Listed Gardens and have the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Award for 2020. Visitors who walk through the gardens will be amazed by the beautiful floral displays that combine a range of colours, textures and scents. The Gardens also have plenty of activities to keep visitors busy including music at the Pine Walk bandstand, an aviary, mini golf course and an art exhibition during the summer. It’s a beautiful setting to just sit and watch the world go by with a coffee or have a delicious picnic with friends and family as well as a welcome haven from the hustle and bustle of the town. During the winter there is the fantastic Christmas Tree Wonderland which features a beautiful trail of Christmas trees and seasonal activities and attracts thousands of visitors every year. There is also a large rock garden which was which was built in the 1930s.

Until the beginning of the 19th century the area was mainly vegetation and marsh. Development of the land began in 1840 but it wasn’t until 1859 that the owners granted permission for the area to become a public pleasure ground. The 3 kilometres of land we know as our Upper, Central and Lower Gardens today didn’t all join as one garden until 1872.

There was a competition to design the Lower Pleasure Ground in 1871, the winner was Mr Philip Henry Tree. His design included new walks, plantations and flowerbeds. Improvements were carried out over the years but the biggest changes were in the 1920s when the Square was laid out and the pavilion was built in the Lower Gardens. Large ornamental rock gardens and small waterfalls were included along the park facing side of the pavilion. In 1922 the War Memorial was built in the Central Gardens and the rose beds were planted. The design and layout of the gardens hasn’t changed much since the 1870s. Lots of the trees and types of shrubs are still the same too.
Bournemouth: History of the Bournemouth Gardens

Wishing Well, Upwey, Dorset

Wishing Well, Upwey
1900s, possibly 1905 (see below)
Publisher: Valentine

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Although this is known as the Wishing Well, it is not strictly a well at all but rather is a natural spring which is the source of the River Wey which flows from Upwey to Weymouth some 5 miles downstream. It is believed to date back to the last Ice Age and was at one time the village’s water supply. It is at this point where, because of the formation of rock, sand and clay, water literally bubbles its way to the surface from the underground stream. The water is always clear and maintains a steady temperature of 10.5 degrees.
The Dorset Rambler

Frederick Treves remembered Upwey in the 1860s as ‘a spot of faint interest … there was no particular ground for assuming that a wish expressed at Upwey would have special advantages’. However, by 1906 he found at the spring ‘a seat placed under two ridiculous stone arches has been erected for the benefit of the tripper. For the benefit of the villager, on the other hand, the following ritual has been introduced, which has proved to be more lucrative than a mere gazing at the waters. The wisher receives a glass of the water from the custodian, he drinks it with appropriate giggling, empties the glass by throwing it over his left shoulder [makes a wish], and most important of all, makes an offering of money to the keeper of the well … it is a curious spectacle for the twentieth century’. Treves seems astonished that ‘Folk of all kinds go through this formula for attaining of supposed ends – old men and maidens, young men and children’.
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Treves was a doctor, properly scientific and not likely to endorse this new ‘tradition’. He had known Upwey over the time it changed from a roadside spring (admittedly a very big one) into a magical well. Happily this development was so late that there are photographs of each phase. First the unaltered spring, very picturesque. Then the spring has a stone surround (indeed looking like a well) added and a rustic seat is built along the wall. About 1905 this seat was rebuilt in stone with gothicky arches, the version which survives today.
Dorset Life

The village of Upwey-the Upper Town on the Wey- affords an extraordinary instance of the value of a happy, if meaningless, title. Upwey is’one of the places of pilgrimage for the Weymouth holiday-makers. They come here in hundreds, mostly in coaches and wagonettes. The reason for their coming to Upwey is a spring there with the fascinating title of the ” Wishing Well.” It is to see the Wishing Well that the romantically minded pay their shillings for a seat in the crowded char-a-banc.
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The well, as I remember it some forty years ago, was a spot of faint interest; its powers were ill-defined, and there was no particular ground for assuming that a wish expressed at Upwey would have especial advantage. The place is pleasant enough, in spite of the crowd, the swings, and the tea-gardens. A spring issues from the foot of a wooded bank, and, hurrying away under an avenue of trees, vanishes at the mill. A seat placed under two ridiculous stone arches has been erected for the benefit of the tripper. For the benefit of the villager, on the other hand, the following ritual has been introduced, which has proved to be more lucrative than a mere gazing at the waters. The wisher receives a glass of water from the custodian of this Fons Bandusea, he drinks it with appropriate giggling, empties the glass by throwing the water over his left shoulder, and, most important of all, makes an offering of money to the keeper of the well.
“Highways and Byways of Dorset, Joseph Pennell, 1914”, Dorset Online Parish Clerks

Rufus Castle, Portland, Dorset

Portland. Rufus or Bow and Arrow Castle
Postmarked 1916
Publisher: “E. H. Series, Weymouth”

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The monument includes a tower keep castle and church situated on the summit of steep coastal cliffs on the east side of the Isle of Portland overlooking Church Ope Cove. The tower keep survives as a roofless irregular pentagonal plan tower. The walls to the north and west survive to full height and retain a number of shaped corbels for a parapet with machicolations. The south east wall is of thinner construction and has a blocked chamfered doorway. A gateway to the south west has an arched doorway. In the north and west walls at first floor level are five embrasures, internally splayed with circular gun-ports. Beyond the south gateway a section of curtain wall follows the slope and stands up to 1.5m high. To the east further buildings were removed by coastal erosion. The tower building dates to the 15th century and is approached from the north by a 19th century rounded headed arched gateway and bridge. The castle is thought to have been a reconstruction of an earlier castle captured by Robert Earl of Gloucester in 1142. It is also known as ‘Bow and Arrow Castle’.
Historic England

Rufus Castle was probably built for King William II (called “Rufus” for his red hair). It is likely that the structure we see today was the keep of a much larger castle. Little remains of that first castle, with the possible exception of the arch that spans the path from Church Ope Road.
Britain Express

The structure was substantially rebuilt in the fifteenth century by Richard, Duke of York and these are the ruins visible today. The centrepiece of the new construction was an irregular pentagonal tower that was clearly built on top of earlier foundations. The walls of this tower were punctuated with holes bored through the stonework to provide a means for archers to fire at attackers – a simple design lacking the elaborate arrow slits added to many medieval castles – and which gave the fortification its alternative name of Bow and Arrow Castle. After the Tudor period the castle was allowed to fall into ruin – particularly after the construction of Portland and Sandsfoot Castles by Henry VIII – and eventually the adjacent mansion house known as Pennsylvania Castle became their home.
Castles Forts Battles

“An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Vol 2”, British History Online, 1970

The walls to the N. and W. stand to their full height and retain at the top a number of shaped corbels for a machicolated parapet, but part of the S.E. wall, which is thinner, has broken away. To the S.W. is a gateway with four-centred, arched head; to the N. is a 19th-century gateway with a round-arched head approached by a bridge of the same date. In the S.E. wall is a chamfered stone jamb of a doorway which has been closed up. In the N. and W. walls, at first-floor level, are five embrasures, splayed internally under segmental rear arches, with circular gun-ports. Outside the S. gateway are the remains of stone footings and there are said to have been further buildings to the E. where the cliff has fallen away.
“An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Vol 2”, British History Online, 1970

This castle stands on the E. coast of the Isle of Portland upon a cliff in the close neighbourhood of an old church. It is a very ancient stronghold, of rough construction, full of small loopholes, in the form of a pentagon. It stands at a height of 300 feet above the sea, and is connected with the mainland by a bridge having a very fine and bold arch. In 1142 when the powerful champion of the Empress Maud, Robert, Earl of Glo’ster, was subduing the Dorsetshire castles, he is said to have built this one, but it is more likely that he only took it by assault, and its origin is doubtful.
“The Castles of England: their story and structure, Vol 1”, James Mackenzie, 1896

A little E. of the old church, and 50 steps of stone above it, is a very ancient castle, in form of a pentagon, full of small loop holes. The foundation of it was much above the top of the tower of the church, and it must have been almofst impregnable before the invention of ordnance. It has been vulgarly called Rufus’s castle, perhaps because built by him. Robert earl of Gloucester in 1142 took it from king Stephen, for the empress Maud.
“The history and antiquities of the county of Dorset”, John Hutchins, 1774